Michigan’s on a bye week so my strongest recommendation this weekend is to get outside. Yes, I know you’re an addict. I know you need the gridiron straight into your veins. But I’m telling you, go outside. Your Friday Drinking Instructions depend on it.
It’s fall and you’re probably in the Midwest! There are many good fall things to do that will bring you great joy outside, and none of them include pumpkins, pumpkin spice, or lattes in the least. If you would like to do pumpkin beer, you can do pumpkin beer. But that’s on you. It’s fine. But know it’s not pumpkin. It’s like, cloves and nutmeg and shit. That is good.
But here’s why you need to go outside: it is the only way to get yourself to a cider mill. And cider mills - nay, the things they mill - specifically, cider - are going to be the key component of today’s YFD.
We east coasters know cider mills are an endangered species out here. You can find them, but they’re not that great and you’re like "wait, all that hype was for this?" Looking at you, blue-feathered cockatiel, of which there are roughly six in the wild, and most of them suck.
But cider is the perfect fall consumable. You can heat it up. You can drink it ice cold. And, crucially, you can dip cinnamon-sugar cake apple cider donuts INTO said cider. And it is perfect.
Cider, as you may be aware, has nearly limitless alcoholic applications. And I’m not talking about that mediocre-to-good-at-best bottled shit from Stella or Wolaver’s or Woodchuck. Nah. Get the real, unpasteurized, stuff. From apples. Oh, and do this in the late morning, because for the evening slate of games, we’re gonna do some work.
Go buy yourself a gallon of apple cider. Yes, a gallon. I’m going to give you a choose-your-own-adventure thing here. But you’ll need a lot of it. Better get two. And while you’re out there, wander the cider mill and appreciate the most glorious of seasons, especially with you out the outdoors in a cozy sweater. It’s your only non-Michigan weekend until it snows, so hop to it. And if they’ve got cider donuts, buy some, eat them, and buy more to take home. I will hear no heresy about your shitty raised donuts. Cake, or nothing.
Return to your house. Ideally with about six hours until dinner, but maybe at least before the 3:30 games. Skip the nooners, whatever. Make sure said cider is cold. There are both food and beverage options to work with here.
READ THIS IF YOU WANT SOME NOMZ (otherwise skip a paragraph): Get yourself a hunk of meat. Brisket or chuck or short rib might be best here. Pork shoulder or tenderloin works too. Tenderloin if you’re in a hurry. Sear/brown said meat, and then throw it into a slow cooker or Dutch oven at around 250 degrees. Douse it with the cider. Nearly submerge it. Throw in something salty (a little fish sauce would work here, or soy, or just salt) and something bitter (a little vinegar, maybe) and you’re off to the races. Cook that for like, four to six hours on high or longer on low until it falls apart. Then pull out that delicious liquid and simmer it down until it thickens into a deliciously meaty apple sweet sauce to put on top. Then do whatever you want with it. Fall tacos with stuffing and cranberry? Yep. Stuff some pumpkin pastries? Yep. Whatever. Eat it with your hands out of a pile because you are a savage? Okay, too.
But while that’s cooking, you need to drink the cider too. You can drink it straight. The dilettante in your friend group will say "hurr hurr vodka let’s do this" but ignore that person. And stop being friends with him or her. TBH, if you’re reading this, you probably have mostly dude friends. That’s cool.
If you are a bougie asshole like me, you have a carbonator. Carbonate your cider. It will taste like the best taste in the world. Way better than prepackaged sparkling cider. You can then put your bourbon into that, and I will not complain.
But my favorite use for cider in this way is to make essentially a simple syrup out of it. Pour some cider into a small saucepan. Set it on low and cook until it’s mostly syrupy. Stir once in a while. Just don’t let the sugars burn. If you’d like, you could add a cinnamon stick or any other flavors you would like with your apple syrup. Hell, even some maple syrup. Congrats! You now have delicious flavoring to put in any kind of cocktail. May I now suggest you pour yourself a glass of an unsweet bourbon or whisky, a splash of savory bitters, that syrup, and perhaps a lemon twist? Let’s call it the Cider Mill, because you need to remember your day started outside and will likely end in a booze/sugar induced coma under a couch. This is okay. And given that you just made yourself a whole bunch of "homemade" stuff, I’d say your bye week went just swimmingly. And if you have a family (ha!) they will be impressed and full of wonderment at your ability to turn humble cider into a veritable feast. If you have a child, I suggest replicating that cocktail recipe and subbing out the booze for pancakes - works great).
Oh, also, if you dump a cider packet into some Four Roses or a nice rye (like Redemption, or Bulleit if you want) with naught but a few cubes of ice, I won’t tell a soul.